Known by its call sign Mike Poppa Poppa, Alberta’s RCMP police helicopter has become a valuable crime fighting tool in Central Alberta.
The helicopter, one of three pilots and a tactical flight officer landed at the Red Deer Regional Airport to talk about the importance of the aircraft in police operations.
Red Deer RCMP’s officer in charge Supt. Ken Foster said having the helicopter sends a strong message to people committing crimes.
“You can’t run away from a helicopter,” Foster said. “It’s that simple.”
He also pointed to the how the helicopter helps enhance the safety of his officers and the public.
“The old days of high-speed pursuits and chasing people all through hill-and-dale are gone,” said Foster. “It’s such a dangerous activity and the risk to the public is high. Having an aerial platform to observe the movements of the vehicle and help direct the police resources is just good business.”
Chris Gaunt, an RCMP pilot for 30 years, focuses on the flying component of the helicopter despite the many police applications of the helicopter including search and rescue, supporting the RCMP Emergency Response Team and assisting with apprehension of people fleeing from custody.
The pilots work with a flight tactical officer, who supports police on the ground from the air.
Const. Jason Wells is one of them.
“It gives you the advantage of an aerial view,” said Wells. “Getting a view over top of a scene helps with officer safety.
“Suspect apprehension too, especially at night, the helicopter is equipped with infrared.”
Wells said the infrared camera provides a huge benefit when tracking suspects at night. The ability to find heat signatures can help ground officers locate suspects. There is also a regular camera that helps track suspects and a spotlight called a “night sun.”
The helicopter regularly operates in the Central Alberta area, though Foster admits he’d like to see it in Red Deer more.
“We’re giving information to members on the ground to help plan and safely execute what they’re doing,” Wells said.